Indie Comics Spotlight: Jungle Book: Last of the Species, The Black Beetle, Scam

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Jungle Book: Last of the Species #1

A jungle book isn’t as exciting as it sounds. Well, it’s sort of exciting. But it usually does involve lots of angry animals fighting each other for battle of said jungle. Sometimes, humans get caught in the middle of it. Jungle Book: Last of the Species #1 is one of those times. The first issue in the new series is written by Mark L. Miller, with pencils by Jorge Mercado, colors by Liezl Buenaventura and letters by Jim Campbell.


The isle of Kipling can’t seem to escape the theater of war. A war among the animal tribes that is further complicated by the arrival of four orphans. Mowglii is riding high as the unofficial leaders on the island (considering her felling Shere Kahn). That’s not enough to keep the peace though, as Bomani seeks revenge for his previous run-in with Mowglii. Revenge that could lead to an all-out war on the island.


Miller picks up the tone of the first series. That series ended up focusing on Mowglii and the responsibilities she now shoulders because of her actions against the tiger tribe. The new comic presents a more carefree Mowglii, enjoying her freedom. Of course, the other orphans aren’t feeling quite the same way, with some looking to take her side and others to be against her. The animals are sort of using the humans as pawns in their battle for island supremacy, but they’ll likely end up proving to be a little less malleable than they previously thought.


Mercado’s art is consistent as well with the first series. He does a really good job personifying the animals as soldiers, upping the stakes on the island and reinforcing the notion that even animals fight for social reasons. The jungle itself is presented as a lush, living creature, with the animals acting as extensions of it. The influence of the jungle on the orphans is also shown, as each have adapted their appearance and way of life to the clan that they’ve become a part of.


Jungle Book: Last of the Species #1 looks to be starting off the new series with promise. Mowglii is still acting as the primary character, but her role is going to be grander relative to the other orphans. Bomani is still bitter from the first series and his blind hatred will likely lead to a lot more collateral damage than is necessary. The first issue of five is interesting and is setting the right tone…hopefully, it keeps it up.


Jungle Book: Last of the Species #1 is available now.

The Black Beetle: No Way Out #2

Intrigue! Detective work! Nazi Werewolves! All that and more make quality books and Dark Horse made sure to include all in The Black Beetle: No Way Out #2, the latest issue of the smash mini-series that proves even jetpacks need modifications. The issue is written and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla.


Black Beetle continues his investigation of a mysterious mass murder that wiped out Colt City’s mob bosses. Of course, his investigation necessitates a daring escape on quite a couple occasions. The second occasion is the one that bears paying attention to, as it introduces both Black Beetle and the reader to Labyrinto, an eerie villain who may have something to do with it all. That involvement gives Black Beetle the chance to put on his dancing shoes and do some work on the street.


For an issue that’s ninety percent narration, Francavilla does an exceptional job making sure both the character of Black Beetle continues to be explored and that the story keeps progressing. The Beetle takes the reader through some of his gadgets and investigative process, the combination of both working in concert to help you appreciate his style that much more. He’s an old-school character with an appreciation of modernizing and being creative when necessary, a pairing of attributes that make Black Beetle a formidable foe or ally.


Francavilla’s art is up to the task of supporting his writing. Black Beetle’s look is gritty and weathered, showing a detective who’s been through the ringer once or twice before and isn’t afraid to go through again if need be. The color palette used is pretty dark and ominous throughout, as anything brighter would belie the seriousness of his investigation. Labyrinto gets the award for being illustrated with the most creep factor, as he’s someone who will be a thorn in Beetle’s side and definitely shows a desire to be equally as focused on screwing with his mind.


Plain and simple, The Black Beetle: No Way Out #2 is a solid, quality book that blends a strong narrative with focused art. As a main character, Black Beetle is rife with savvy and observational skills, giving the reader a glimpse at what a genius at work looks like. The second issue continues what is a really fascinating detective book with a lot of panache.


The Black Beetle: No Way Out #2 is available now.

Scam #3

It’s not often that a crossword threatens to kill you. Sure, it can really piss you off and make you want to kill someone else (damn you Will Shortz!), but they’re not meant to push you to that point. Unless you’re a villain with a penchant for torture and a power drill. Then, crosswords become an entirely different beast. Crossword in Scam #3 from ComixTribe is such a beast. The issue is written and illustrated by Joe Mulvey, colored by Chris Sotomayor and lettered by Deron Bennett.


Tru’s team is determined to keep their plan alive. Hack is laid up in bed. Doc is still being tortured. Pint is knocking out comic book retailers in a bar. And Tru is faced with the potential of a new offer; a new offer with a new, bigger payout. Everything starts to come to a head in the third issue, punctuated by a chilling message from Crosswords, featuring blood, rope and a skyrise.


Third issues in five-issue miniseries are typically the slowest. There’s not really much put in storywise considering it’s viewed as low point of a story before the ramp up to the climax. Mulvey actually keeps the pace moving along in the third issue, throwing in a ton of story. Tru and Pint sort of get top billing, with both showcasing some of their personalities in their actions. All the characters working together is what makes the book work and there’s plenty of that, with Mulvey infusing them with relationships that feel strong. Tru is always looking for the better score. His encounter with Carlyle is meant to be eye-opening for him, as Carlyle wants to warn Tru that his decisions will lead to a hollow existence. Tru has been the main character throughout, but he doesn’t have to carry the third issue. Mulvey relies on other characters, such as Pint, to carry the action. And Pint goes on an alcohol-fueled brawl that definitely fulfills the action requirement for the third issue.


Mulvey has a handle on the art. The aforementioned Pint bar brawl scene is pretty crazy, showcasing a bunch of different parts of a bar brawl at once. The end effect is actually quite entertaining; sort of like multiple frames of a video layers on top of one another. Crosswords is a violent being and Mulvey doesn’t let the gore of his torture tactics overwhelm the issue. It’s tough to illustrate a character like him without being too graphic, but Mulvey does a great job with it.


Scam #3 is the halfway point in the series and it continues to keep things interesting. The series has put Tru’s grand caper on the backburner a bit, as the crew is grappling with a slew of changes and surprises. Tru is being set up to work a different angle and it’s possible that someone gets betrayed in the end. Scam is a great comic and one of strongest combinations of writing and art out right now, so do yourself a favor and check it out.


Scam #3 is available for preorder with Diamond Code OCT120973.


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